Gyms are different everywhere in the world. I liked my gym in Canada even though it was populated with tanned, beefy types, and my Korean gym was absolutely hilarious- filled with pushy elderly people, and a year working out there probably gave me enough material to write a book. I eventually grew to love that dirty, dingy gym with its obsolete fleet (fat-slapping machines, treadmills without an incline), and naked ladies in the sauna eating snacks (no kidding).
My Japanese gym is a different story. It's the extreme opposite of my Korean gym, and a few notches beyond my Canadian one- and not necessarily in a good way. The mere process of registering took nearly an hour and a half, and required more paperwork than when I first got my apartment. I filled out about six different forms, read endless pages of rules, and was instructed on how to proceed, from the arrival to the locker room etiquette and locker code procedure, to the machine use and towel organization. Every detail was explained thoroughly in the form of thick binders and lengthy speeches, and I tried not to crack up when I saw the example member card featuring a giraffe. While I do appreciate explanations on how to use the facilities, I don't think the illustrated manga-like booklet about manners was necessary. I left with a heavy plastic bag filled with brochures and booklets, and a spinning head.
To be honest, all the rules and paperwork made me quite nervous, and I'm now terrified to use the gym by myself for the first time. Too many rules means I'll definitely commit a faux-pas, and I'll be known forever as the foreigner who walked into the gym with the wrong pair of shoes. The process is all very Japanese, and while the organization and social order is one of the things I like best about Japan, too many rules have the opposite effect on me. It makes me feel inadequate and childish, and I just want to enjoy the gym and not have to be self-conscious or conspicuous.
I never used to feel so much pressure about following social conventions, especially when I first moved to Japan. Yet, after living here for a number of years, I graduated from my passerby status, and I somehow feel like I have to tone down the 'foreign-ness', and blend in a little more- which is, and will always be an impossible task. It's silly how a simple gym registration is making me so anxious and bringing up other issues.
Wish me luck for my first workout session. I received a free pass to give away, so I begged my boyfriend to come along for the first time and show me how to behave in a Japanese gym, so it can ease the pressure a bit.
Has anyone experienced something similar in Japan? Or is it just my gym?
|The paperwork is more exhausting than the actual gym.|
|Rules are easier to follow when they're cute.|